Over the last several decades, the number of cryopreserved embryos has grown significantly due to improved freezing technologies. This can allow people to choose to build their family at a later date. However, many people choose not to use all of their embryos for family building, so they are faced with the choice of what to do with the cryopreserved embryos.
Embryo donation is a process whereby previously formed embryos–created for either an individual or a couple who will no longer use them and who are willing to donate them to another–are utilized to create or expand your family.
Whether you are donating or receiving this extraordinary gift, you should seek legal representation. Some states have no laws governing embryo donation or have permissive statutes. Others prohibit embryo donation outright. Whatever your situation, it is imperative to understand your options and your obligations.
If you have embryos that you would like to donate, you can donate to a single intended parent or couple whom you do not know (anonymous embryo donation) or to a known recipient (directed embryo donation). Either way, the term “donation” does not necessarily imply that the recipient obtains the embryos for free; laws in some states may allow for reimbursement for a portion of the expenses incurred in the creation of the embryos. In the case of directed embryo donation, a contract between the embryo donor(s) and the recipient(s) must be in place in order to establish parental rights and responsibilities.
Generally speaking, the transfer of embryos from one party to another is complicated and can have negative consequences if intentions are not clarified by a legal agreement. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help ensure that the experience proceeds as desired, and that donor and recipient are protected legally and financially.